Yogyakarta, Indonesia - Natural and human tragedies have struck people through the years, leaving the poorest and the remotest communities the most vulnerable and worst hit. Although local resources and initiatives are affected in these situations, localised approaches always form most appropriate and effective emergency response. Among these is community radio.
Radio Aljumhur in Bantul district of Yogyakarta, was among those devastated by the earthquake. Despite the damages it sustained, the community radio managed to contribute to the relief, rescue and reconstruction efforts as it turned itself into an information desk. With the help of Women Volunteer for Humanity, the collected data from people, mostly women, produced pieces of vital public information
Once they are on the air, community radios can broadcast information which are critical in relief efforts. It can establish contacts to people in evacuation centres and report on the relief distribution and the needs of the evacuees, especially women.
In emergency situations, rumors spread easily, leading to unrest and even violence. Community radios and their correspondents play an important role in countering and correcting these rumors and preventing more untoward incidents.
Community radios can also be instrumental in easing the trauma of affected communities, without demanding too much resources from people, especially women who remain burdened by their reproductive roles.
“Especially designed women's programmes in times of natural disaster are an important survival support for many women,” explained Ade Tamesia of Combine Resource Institution. As community radios report on the situation of evacuees in temporary shelters, they also provide a platform where women share their own stories of loss and survival. Radio programmes can also have a healing effect as insomnia is commonplace in situations of disaster.
Community radio are likewise critical in broadcasting information on economic empowerment and organising like-minded individuals who are keen on further building their capacities as income earners. For the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA), the medium has helped them generate awareness on credit facilities and market infrastructures, and therefore minimised people's dependence on middle persons.
Finally, community radio brings media to grassroots level to share members’ experiences and struggles. As Namrata Bali of SEWA asserted, “Thus creating appropriate opportunities for the poor and making it affordable is the imperative need of the hour. Community radio is one empowering instrument to respond to this need.”